What the heck do all of those jibber-jabber words mean?
Learning SEO is like learning a whole new language! You certainly don’t need to be fluent in it–that’s why you have us! But it might be easier for you to understand a few things you read about SEO if you know the key terms and what they mean. So we have created this Essential Glossary for SEO.
This handy guide for you to get a good overview of the basics you need to know about SEO. Have a question? Leave us a note in the comments! You’re likely not the only one with a Q about something, so let it out sister 😉
Welcome to Week 4 in our SEO Essential Series! We’re getting back to basics and giving you everything you need to know about SEO so that you can turn up your SEO megaphone, tell Google who you are, and get found by your dream clients. This week is an in-depth explanation of all those SEO terms you’ve heard but never understood–have a read and enjoy your SEO-education!
The Essential Glossary for SEO
An under-the-hood caption for an image that lets Google ‘read’ your images on your site. You’ll see this if you hover over an image on a website, and it’s a great opportunity to tell Google what you’re all about through your image, so don’t let a good opportunity go wasted!
Here is an Alt Tag in Action:
A good alt tag is descriptive and includes keywords that you want to be found for. Everyone should be using alt tags, but especially people who are heavy on images, low on text on their site (I’m talking to you, photographers!)
- A good alt tag: “Bloguettes and Clapping Dog Media Case Study”
- A bad alt tag: “img_403”.
Google loves alt-tags, so help them read your gorgeous images, and they’ll give you a little SEO reward for it.
Who needs to use alt-tags?
Everyone! But here’s who it matters for the most:
People who have photo heavy websites. Words matter for SEO, and if your site is full of images, Google has basically nothing read on your site, so it just throws its hands up in frustration and moves on to someone else. That’s no good!
To protect all of your hard work, be sure to include a keyword-rich (note–NOT stuffed, see below) alt-tag on each photo.
Does adding alt-tags to every single photo sound super overwhelming? Want it done for you, and with the peace of mind knowing it’s done well?
Pssst: If you’re the kind that just can’t get enough of alt-tag goodness, I wrote a whole article for you about it.
Remember how good it felt to get gold stars and an A+ in school? This is the SEO version of that. Google checks a lot of factors to answer the question, “Can we trust this website?” and give you a grade. It changes all the time, and you’ll likely never actually know what your grade is, BUT, you’ll know your grade is good when you get those coveted first-page rankings on Google.
Just like trust in real life, this score is calculated and how reliable you seem, based on their algorithm. This metric is run by the SEO giant, Moz, and while it’s not an official Google metric, we think it’s a valuable tool.
It’s too much to explain it all here, but here are the essentials of establishing good authority with Google:
- A site that’s been online for a while
- A site that’s active and frequently updated
- Ethical use of SEO techniques
- Having lots useful content
PS–want some help figuring out where you stand with SEO? I’ve got you covered.
The words you see that are linked to another page. It’s helpful when it’s descriptive, both for the user and for google.
See the difference? Make the words you choose for your anchor text logical and meaningful, and you’ll spread some great SEO mojo into the world.
Side note: Doesn’t it make you crazy when you try to click on a link, only to find out it’s just an underlined word? Save the underlines for links only and we’ll all breathe a bit easier.
Backlinks are SO important for Good SEO. When another site links to you it tells Google that you’re trustworthy and reputable. For example, let’s say a small business owner is writing about their SEO strategy and they decide to link to a few articles from Clapping Dog Media. That tells Google that Clapping Dog Media has relevant articles on SEO.
Getting good links is SEO 3.0. Once you have a fully optimized site and great evergreen content you can start working on getting backlinks. (We have a whole series on this topic coming up, so stay tuned!).
Pro Tip: Want to make your backlinking go even farther?
Be sure that the words you link in the text are meaningful and relevant to the linked topic, rather than saying ‘here’ or ‘this’. For example, “See my new rug for the living room” vs “See my new rug here”. The words you choose to link with matter and help tell Google what the link is.
While you can’t always change what other people are doing for their own links, you can set a good example by following this simple trick yourself (and if you have guest posting, you can require it!).
The percentage of people who come to your site and promptly leave without going past the first page. It shows Google that there’s a lot of ‘oops! Not what I’m looking for” happening, which means that your site isn’t relevant for the search terms.
While you’ll never actually know someone’s intention how they behave on your site, you can make some good guesses based on behavior.
If you have good SEO, you’ll likely have a much lower bounce rate, meaning that people click on your site and stick around. This tells Google that they found what they were looking for and want to check you out.
Bounce rate gets a bad rap. It isn’t inherently bad! Maybe someone comes directly to a sales page, opts-in, then leaves your site. That’s great! I wrote a whole post about how to figure out if you have a ‘good’ bounce rate--and what to do about it if you don’t!
Consistently producing quality, helpful content #1 way to get great SEO!
Want to know my best SEO secret? Good business is good SEO.
Yes! If you’re running a quality business, good SEO will come your way. Of course, there’s SEO-specific work to do that will boost your SEO,but one of the biggest things you can do for SEO is also what’s already great for your business: providing great content.
So…what is content?
Anything that’s helpful to your audience, which mostly includes blog posts. Ideally, this would be evergreen content that won’t quickly be outdated and can give you and your audience benefit for years to come.
I know what you’re thinking:
“Meg…I don’t have time to write content! I’m already flooded with so much work, family, the dog…I hardly have time to shower!”
Friend, I hear you. And we have a whole series of posts coming up just on this topic, so stay tuned! In the meantime, if you want help getting SEO-boosting, customer-converting content on your site, then let’s chat.
So what is good content?
- Never been posted anywhere else (duplicate content is the kiss of death for SEO)
- What are your audience’s questions? Answer them! Help them out and establish yourself as an authority with your content–it’s win-win.
- It’s so well written and useful that your audience can’t help but share it, link to it, and put what you taught into action straight away!
Written for people first:
- No writing for robots necessary. Hooray! Write for your audience, then add keyword friendly words later.
- People like this content so much that it has multiple backlinks, thus demonstrating authority and trust in the source.
- Good content comes out regularly. Pick a frequency, whether it’s once a day or once a month, and stick to it.
- Of course, your grammar should be perfect, but more than that, your content should read naturally and the writing style should contribute to the value of the post, not distract from it. (More on this coming soon!).
- To get found, your post needs to be optimized. If you’re using WordPress, you’ll be able to use Yoast, our favorite SEO tool, ever.
- PS–did you know we optimize your blog posts for you? Hit us up if you want to make the most out of all the hard work you put into each post.
- The best kind of content stays relevant over a long period of time.
- For example: A post titled, “Super Bowl 2016 Predictions” is NOT evergreen content. A post titled, “What Every Winning Super Bowl Team has in Common” is.
Competition is how hard it is to rank for a certain keyword. For example, it will be almost impossible to rank for a keyword like “jewelry”, unless you have an enormous budget and want to wait a few years to catch up. A keyword like “ethically sourced jewelry” will be much easier to rank for.
Choosing the right keywords to target is a balancing act between 3 factors:
- How many people are searching for this keyword? (you want a good amount per month, like a few hundred at least)
- How competitive is this keyword?
Here’s the sweet spot for SEO:
High Volume + Low Competition = Your Perfect SEO Keywords!
Do you want an expert eye on picking out the best keywords for you? Let’s get you found!
Your domain name is “yourbusiness.com” (or .org, .biz, .shop, etc). It’s your address on the web, and how people are able to find you.
Why does this matter for SEO?
Well, things have changed lately….so now it doesn’t as much. It used to be true that the age of your domain affected SEO, because it was seen as a sign of trust and authority, but Google recently changed their mind.
So, what’s the big deal with domain names then?
These days, your domain is related to SEO mostly for branding purposes. It doesn’t help your SEO to include a keyword in your domain (thank goodness!), but what really matters here is good branding. People need to be able to readily recognize (and say, and spell) your domain name.
Where it really matters is links. If you’re rebranding or building a new website, think carefully if you decide to change your domain name, because that will break all links to your site, which DO matter for SEO.
How do I protect my links??
If you just have to change your domain name, fret not, friend! It’s some work, but you can protect your links with these steps.
Here’s what you do:
- Use a tool like Google Analytics to see every webpage that has backlinked to you.
- Get in touch with every single website that has linked to you. Each link is precious, so you should protect them.
- Send a brief email telling them you have a new domain, and ask them to update their link (they don’t want broken links on their site either!).
- In addition, you should also set up a redirect from your old domain to your new just to catch any that didn’t update their link.
Or, how to get even higher than the #1 spot on Google (yep, this is a thing).
We know you’d love to be in the #1 spot on google for your desired keywords…and our goal is to get you there.
But what about the #0 spot?
We know it sounds weird, but this is a real thing, and it’s otherwise known as “Google Answer Box”. You’ve seen this before–it’s the super helpful box google returns when you ask a question that someone has succinctly answered.
When it appears, it’s the most clicked on result, which makes is super desirable.It’s a huge stamp of approval and authority from Google–which is the whole point of SEO.
Take a look (we get all meta with this image).
My search term:
“How to get featured in Google box?”
So, how do you get into that handy box?
In short, you ask a question, and then give a helpful, succinct answer to it. This makes it easy for Google to pull your content into the results page in The Box.
Your customers are asking questions on Google, so answer them! If you do this AND have good SEO, then you have a good shot at getting into that coveted #0 spot on Google.
There are a lot of factors that go into getting into this spot, including already having great SEO.
Do you want to be featured in Google Box? Want to find out what Google Box opportunities there are for your industry? We’ll help you make it happen.
Here at Clapping Dog Media, we make sure that your SEO is killer so that when you write posts like these (or have us do it for you) you’re even more likely to get found in this spot and get found by your dream customers and clients. Cha-ching!
Imagine this: You go to a bookstore, and there’s a book with 4 titles on the cover. Confusing right? Not only is it distracting, it’s unclear what the book is actually about.
Website pages are the same way. Each page should only have ONE header, but most people don’t know this and give each page waaayyyy too many headers. This confuses Google, and when Google is confused, they give the ranking to someone else.
Here’s the proper format for outlining your page:
- Headline (H1)
- Headline 2
- Headline 3
- Headline 3
- Headline 3
- Headline 2
- Headline 2
- Headline 2
Must Haves for a Good SEO H1:
- ONE per page
- Keyword rich (note–not stuffed)
- Logical and useful to the reader
In short, H1s are the first (or second, if your template includes a title tag) thing that Google reads. It’s how Google first knows what your content is about, so make it keyword rich, relevant, and logical for your site.
Internal linking is a way to pass on some of the SEO mojo your site has earned to other pages of your website. It’s linking to yourself, within your own website. Every time within this blog post that I’ve linked to another Clapping Dog Media blog post is an internal link.
But I thought link building was all about getting other people to link to you?
It is…mostly. Getting other people to link to you (external links) should be your #1 link building goal. Most often they will be linking to a few pages on your site, like your homepage. So your homepage will have a lot of SEO mojo, and you can use internal linking to ‘lend’ the SEO mojo you’ve earned to other pages on your site. This is the SEO version of a rising tide lifting all boats.
Have you heard the term ‘keyword’ tossed around and wondered what the heck it means??
I’m here to make it simple for you:
A ‘keyword’ is just what you type into Google. It’s your search term. There are 3 types of keywords:
- One Word
- High search volume, Very competitive, low conversion probability
- Example: “Photographer”
- 2-3 words
- Somewhat specific
- Example: “Photographer Austin, TX”
- You should optimize your site for a fair bit of this kind of keyword
- Moderate search volume, moderate competition, moderate conversion probability
Long tail keywords
- 4+ words
- The sweet spot of SEO. With some work you have a good shot at getting ranked for something like “creative wedding photographer Austin, TX”
- Shows intent to buy, rather than intent to research
- Low search volume, low competition, HIGH conversion probability
Want to read more about how to find perfect keywords and what to do with them? I wrote all about keywords on my blog!
The percentage of your keyword appearing in your text, relevant to total words. Google favors a fairly low keyword density, at around 2.5% max.
Why does Google do this?
Because mentioning your keyword too many times just sounds awkward! It’s terrible writing and makes for a bad user experience, so Google penalizes sites that use keywords too much.
So what’s the antidote to too many keywords?
Use synonyms! This is completely fine, and is probably what you would do naturally, because it sounds better than shoving a lot of keywords into your post.
How do you know if your keyword density is too high?
- Yoast–check those lights! (PS–I LOVE Yoast!)
- This handy keyword density checker is great for a quick check.
This is what happens when you have far too high keyword density.
Let’s pretend for a minute that I’m trying to get ranked for “keyword stuffing” (oh the irony!) Here’s a taste of what keyword stuffing would sound like:
Keyword stuffing is when you try to stuff as many keywords as possible into one post so that you get ranked for your keyword, even though it’s stuffed, which in this case is keyword stuffing.
Gross, right? Who wants to read 1K words like that? Certainly not me, and Google will give you a big fat ranking penalty if you write like that.
Want help with SEO friendly writing? We can help make your site content friendly to Google and reel-in your dream clients. Hit us up if you want help with this!
You know that handy line or two of text you see in the Google results page? That’s a meta tag.
They are SUPER important because it gives both Google and your audience a preview of your site, so they know to stick around.
Here’s an example (the meta tag are those 2 gray lines of text):
Meta tags are make-it or break it factor in someone’s decision to click over to your website. It’s also one of the small pockets Google checks for info about your site, so it’s key to have this filled out effectively.
Qualities of a good meta tag:
- Between 150 – 160 characters (any more and it gets cut off in the preview–no good!)
- Unique for each page on site, including blog posts
- Compelling: Makes people want to click on them
Need help writing the perfect meta tags? Every single page, post, and product needs a unique one, and there’s an art to making it stand out in the results page. If you don’t have these optimized properly, you’re leaving a LOT of SEO mojo on the table. We can help you get it right.
<h2>Mobile Responsive & Mobile Friendly</h2>
Obviously we all know how important it is to get a website to be mobile friendly. But did you know there’s a difference between mobile friendly and responsive?
Mobile friendly means it works well on a mobile device, like a phone or tablet. Simple enough, right?
Mobile responsive is a little harder to find in a website or web development package, but it’s super important. This means that the device responds to various browser widths. To clarify: mobile friendly has 2 options: mobile or desktop. Responsive will have lots of ‘breakpoints’ which is what it’s called when you see the layout of the page change.
For example, visit the Google homepage on your desktop. Make your browser smaller and notice that it changes as you make it smaller. That’s responsive, because it’s responding to the multiple changes in the browser size.
Why does this matter (beyond just being easy on the eyes)?
Mobile friendliness is a ranking factor! Yes, we know there are so many things to watch out for, and it’s know to know what matters most. Honestly, this is a big one because it affects your users. If your site isn’t mobile friendly, find a trusty web dev team to help get your site into shape. It’s worth it.
Organic search results are everything you get that you don’t have to pay for; the opposite is paid advertising and marketing.
This doesn’t mean that good SEO comes for free–it’s the result of hard work and likely hiring experts to help you, but you’re not paying Google to
So, what makes organic search different from marketing?
Think of it like this: let’s say you decide you really want to be fit. You decide to join a gym, get some fitness clothes, and maybe hire a trainer for a few months. You work out for a while with that trainer, and after a few months people are noticing how fit you are.
Now, let’s say that you’ve done great work with this trainer, and you decide you can go into maintenance mode and end your sessions with him.
The day after your last session with him does your body immediately go back to what it was before? Of course not! You’re still enjoying the benefits of all the hard work you did and investment you made, and will for a long time.
Of course, to stay fit in the same way, you’ll need to keep your fitness routine going, but you’ve made major gains and you aren’t going to lose them for a while.
SEO is the same way. It’s free, but does take investments to achieve the goals you want.
Paid advertising is different: you get the benefits of it only while you’re paying, and once you stop, so does the traffic.
Ah, rank. You’ve certainly heard this term if you’ve heard about SEO.
Rank is what position Google gives you in the search results. For example, I rank well for lots of keywords related to SEO. Ranking ‘well’ usually means on the first page of Google (when was the last time you even looked at page 2??).
When you’re new to SEO your first goal is to get ranked anywhere and then to improve that ranking over time. Once Google know to associate you with a certain keyword, you can then climb in those rankings over time.
The Google Algorithm determines where a site ranks on the Google Search Page Results. There are over 200 ranking factors in the algorithm. Ranking factors are “page speed”, Title Tags, domain registration length and etc. Backlinko published the full list of ranking factors.
This measures how quickly a page on your site loads. Google favors sites that are fast, like 1-2 seconds load time, at most (of course, this is all assuming a strong and fast wifi connection).
Visit this super helpful Google Insights page to determine how fast your site is and what changes you might need to make to make it faster.
Title tags are a way to brand your content within the results page, and another way to give your brand name some authority.
Items 1, 2, 3 here are all different, and #2 is nailing it.
Let’s break it down. Here’s what this result from search engine watch is doing right:
- Following the ideal format of:
- Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name
- It’s a concise and accurate description of the page
- It’s the right length: between 50-60 characters
Ok, at the risk of sounding like Goldilocks…here’s a breakdown of the example above:
Post #1 is too short. They’re leaving SEO potential on the table by not using space available to them for a relevant keyword.
Post #3 is too long. See how it gets cut off? It’s best to have your business name display to build brand awareness for your users and Google.
Post #2 is juuuuust right. It has 2 keywords, includes the ‘pipe’ symbol (above the backslash on a Mac), and fits in their whole business name. Dreamy.
Pssst: want more? I wrote a whole post about title tags and how to master them for great SEO
How many people are visiting your site monthly, on average. You can watch this in your Google Analytics, and it’s a good way to measure your SEO and marketing efforts. If Google Analytics is ove whelminging no worries, we create these beautiful dashboards so that it is a lot easier to understand the data!
<h2>XML site Map</h2>
This fancy-schmancy sounding thing is like a list of your website contents. It’s not something your users ever see, but Google sees it, and that’s why it matters.
How do I know if I have an XML site map?
Use this handy tool to do a quick check to see if you have a site map. It’s free and fast, and recommended.
What if I don’t have a site map?
If you don’t have one, then don’t fret. You can easily get one set up
Here’s a super handy article that gives you step-by-step on how to set-up and install an XML Site map on WordPress. We highly recommend having one of these on your site!